Outbreak Tracker
Outbreak Tracker
August 03, 2020
1 min read
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‘Very rare’: Officials link multistate Salmonella outbreak to red onions

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Health officials linked a large multistate outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections to red onions from a California supplier, according to the CDC.

The outbreak includes 396 cases in 34 states, with 59 hospitalizations, the CDC said.

Red onions
Salmonella cases across 34 states have been linked to red onions sold by Thomson International Inc.
Source: Adobe Stock

“Onions are actually a very rare vehicle for Salmonella outbreaks,” Kirk Smith, DVM, PhD, MS, manager of the foodborne, waterborne, vector borne and zoonotic diseases section at the Minnesota Department of Health, told Healio. “An outbreak, especially one of this size, is very notable.”

The CDC recommended not serving, eating or selling any red, white, yellow or sweet onions from Thomson International, the California company implicated in the outbreak. Thomson has voluntarily recalled onions because of the outbreak, the FDA announced.

The CDC said consumers should dispose of any onions from Thomson, and any onions whose manufacturer cannot be identified. It also recommended throwing away any prepared foods with onions that cannot be traced to a manufacturer and sanitizing surfaces that have had contact with onions or their packaging.

Kirk Smith

“With fresh produce outbreaks like this one, there isn’t much that can be done other than to not consume the implicated product,” Smith said. “Cooking the product would kill Salmonella, but the advice is just to not eat it.”

According to the CDC, infections in the outbreak have come via raw onions from salads, salsas, dips, wraps and sandwiches. The agency recommended that consumers ask restaurants where they source their onions, and that restaurants not prepare or serve onions from Thomson.

Smith said that COVID-19 likely presented a “challenge” for health departments in regard to allotting resources to trace the outbreak.

“This outbreak is a reminder that other infectious diseases do not stop occurring just because of COVID-19,” he said. “Salmonella outbreaks of this size are not that unusual — one or a few occur almost every year — and a reminder of what can happen with our system of mass food production and distribution when a significant food safety error occurs in production.”